Story by Chief Petty Officer Matthew White, Commander Task Force 75
A skilled and dedicated team of U.S. Navy Seabees are providing engineering and expeditionary logistics support to the Expeditionary Medical Facility (EMF) being constructed onboard Naval Base Guam, as part of the Navy’s fight against COVID-19 in Guam.
The EMF will provide expanded medical capabilities in support of the DoD’s COVID-19 response and will enable forces to be postured to support Guam and the region if a Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) mission is requested.
The scope of the project to deploy the EMF requires most of the skillsets ingrained in the Naval Construction Force, including interoperability with other Navy communities and military services.
“As planning for the EMF began, we knew we’d be pulling in Sailors and Marines from diverse locations around the globe to complete the EMF construction on time,” said Lt. Zach Niezgodski, 30th Naval Construction Regiment (30NCR) Oceania area operations officer, and a native of Beavercreek, Ohio. “We continually coordinate with our subordinate units to ensure they have the necessary equipment to execute the mission. Syncing with our Seabees and the medical personnel that will be running the EMF during the build has been essential to ensure the facility will be ready on time, and able to provide the required medical care to those who may need it.”
Initial offload and receipt of EMF equipment was sorted and organized into a staging yard to enable rapid transit to the construction site when the location was ready. The Sailors of Navy Cargo Handling Battalion (NCHB) 1 and Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1 worked together with Marines of Combat Logistics Regiment (CLR) 3 to unload and receive containers of equipment from USNS Dahl (T-AKR-312).
“We coordinated with the other units to ensure all the right equipment was offloaded and accounted for properly before we started the line haul from the marshal yard to the EMF site,” said Chief Equipment Operator Brad Moore, 30NCR Embark leading chief petty officer, from southern Oregon. “It was vital that all the different units were on the same page to make sure we were moving the right piece of equipment at the right time, so it showed up when needed.”
Simultaneously, Seabees assigned to NMCB 5 and NMCB 1 were at the EMF site preparing the ground for construction of the facility. The area needed grading to remove high and low points, providing a level surface to build the facility. Surveyors arrived first and created a topographical map of the area so the planners could calculate how much soil removal was needed or fill material brought in. Following that, equipment operators moved dirt and fill around the area to create the level and compacted surface meeting EMF requirements.
“The EMF requires about a five acre site and for our team to turn this from an undeveloped field into a fully graded area in four days is incredible,” said Chief Equipment Operator Jared Perry, assigned to NMCB 5, and hailing from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. “Even with our deployment being extended, our team was extremely motivated to support the EMF and show what they can do to help during the COVID response.”
As the Seabees neared completion of the initial site preparations, CLR 3 began moving containers of equipment to the marshalling yard near the EMF site organized by NMCB 5, enabling swift commencement of EMF construction.
But the EMF doesn’t become operational on its own—it requires Seabees trained in the setup and management of the EMF to ensure the facility meets required parameters for medical care and treatment. A team of Sailors from the EMF Advance Team (EMFAT) will manage the buildout of the EMF with direct support provided by Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 303.
The Seabees of CBMU 303 aren’t stationed in Guam and as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, international travel has been restricted to reduce the transmission of the virus and flatten the curve of infection. So, while the offload and site preparations were in full swing, the logistics of moving a 53-person team from San Diego to Guam, while adhering to the important safety and health policies in place due to COVID-19, was being planned and executed.
“The purpose of the EMF is to provide care to people who may be infected with the virus, so we really had to make sure that bringing the personnel from CBMU 303 to Guam didn’t inadvertently spread the virus,” said Moore. “All movements of CBMU 303 personnel and cargo were made with the proper personal protection gear on and the Sailors from CBMU 303 were immediately put into a 14-day restriction of movement (ROM) onboard Naval Base Guam after they arrived. When they safely complete their ROM and are verified as COVID free, they will begin construction of the EMF.”
The Seabees’ expertise in rapid expeditionary engineering and logistics is vital in building the EMF and enabling medical care to those who may need it.
“The Seabees involved in the planning and execution of the Expeditionary Medical Facility are committed to bringing it online as fast as possible. We are fully aware of the severity of COVID-19 and how we fit into the military’s response in combating the virus,” said Capt. Steve Stasick, commodore, 30NCR. “We are treating this as a military mission and attacking it with everything that we have available. The Naval Construction Force has a long history of adapting to new challenges while finding creative ways of overcoming obstacles to mission success. We remain ready and committed to our military and local community.”
As the fight to combat the spread of COVID-19 continues, the Pacific Seabees are positioned and ready to take on each new challenge presented to them.
As Commander Task Group 75.5, 30NCR provides command and control over all Naval Construction Force units in the 7th Fleet area of operations. 30NCR enables the real-time mobility of response for engineering units and other assigned forces to provide expeditionary, general and limited combat engineer capability to respond to major combat operations and contingencies, conducts Theater Security Cooperation Plan operations, and executes Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HA/DR) and Civil-Military Operations within the Indo-Pacific.